Abdurrahman Salahuddin, the Former Egyptian Ambassador to Ankara, has given an exclusive interview for the Turkish TV channel KRT. During the interview, he spoke about the current disputes between the two countries, while giving his assessments about a diplomatic rapprochement. Here are some highlights of that interview:
“I presented my letter of credence with my wife to the Former President Abdullah Gul, we managed to triple our trade venue, and quadruple our tourism venues, by cooperation over these three years. In addition to our cultural exchanges, we also had some military exchanges as well. Turkey now has set every Naval force in the Mediterranean against itself, but during 2012 and 2013, Egyptian and Turkish Navies conducted joint exercises. Turkish officials were also proud of these joint exercises. Today, Turkey was left isolated, and I know that this isolation was tried to be linked to some conspiracies of countries such as Russia, the USA, and even Egypt, yet all these countries had been close friends of Turkey, especially when the government was the AK Party. The only thing that changed since then was that Turkey now puts the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood ahead of its own interests. This is the thing we want to be fixed.
I have not lost all hope regarding Turkey, but those who still think like me are becoming fewer and fewer. Many of my friends in Egypt tell me that I am unrealistic, and that I need to give up on all hope about Turkey and the Turkish government. But I still argue against them, and try to improve our relations.”
-Mr. Ambassador, are you saying that your colleagues in Cairo have no hope for normalizing the relations with Ankara?
“Whenever I start to feel hopeful, a disheartening statement is released, as you mentioned in the beginning. Many are of the opinion that Turkey will continue to stand by itself, use force if necessary, and keep supporting terrorism. Not only Egypt, but other Arab countries – we could even say the rest of the world – will not accept or tolerate these things. Every day, we read another troubling statement and then we call on Turkey to change its course.
-In any case, the Turkish President has said that the solution for the problems in the Eastern Mediterranean is dialogue and negotiation. When Egypt signed the Exclusive Economic Zone Agreement with Greece, it created an annotation to Greece’s position about the islands. Experts in Turkey have considered this action as a positive step by Cairo. What is your opinion? How would you evaluate that?
“You have a very good point. Egypt has not been approaching Greece over the delimitation of the maritime jurisdictions and has retained itself from signing an Exclusive Economic Zone agreement for nearly 20 years, because Turkey had an accord with Greece regarding the islands. For 20 years, we called on for both Turkey and Greece to solve that problem. Unfortunately, this problem could never be resolved and they never reached an agreement. Then we changed our minds, as did Egypt, when Turkey signed an agreement with Libya – a totally illegitimate agreement. I do not think there is any other country that would recognize this agreement except Turkey and the Libyan government in Tripoli. Not a single country. Maybe Malta and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But I still do not think that anyone will recognize this agreement since it ignores a huge piece of territory called Crete. Today, Crete hosts a population bigger than the capital Athens. This agreement with Libya also ignores the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. But, what is more important is what Turkey has done in Libya.
The relations between the two countries soured after the overthrow of Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and current president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s rise to power in 2013. Substantial conflicts have arisen since the Turkish involvement in the Second Libyan Civil War and with rising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. Although there has been some statements from President Erdogan about a possible rapprochement with Egypt, it is unclear if these two countries will ever align again.”